Analysis of hydration and subchondral bone density on the viscoelastic properties of bovine articular cartilage

Joseph Crolla, Bernard Michael Lawless, Anna A. Cederlund, Richard Aspden, Daniel Espino

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Background: Articular cartilage is known to be a viscoelastic material, however little research has explored the impact of cartilage water content and bone density on its viscoelasticity. This study aimed to isolate subchondral bone density and hydration of articular cartilage and analyse their effects on the viscoelastic properties of articular cartilage.

Methods: Dynamic mechanical analysis was used to test samples at frequencies of 1, 8, 12, 29, 49, 71, and 88 Hz. Synthetic bone material with densities of 663.7 kg/m3 and 156.8 kg/m3 were used to mimic the bone mineral density (BMD). Dehydration occurred in a stepwise manner at relative humidity (RH) levels of 100%, 30%, and 1%. These relative humidity levels led to water contents of approximately 76%, 8.5%, and ≈ 0% by mass, respectively.

Results: Samples from eight bovine femoral heads were tested under a sinusoidal load. Storage stiffness was lower on the lower substrate density. Storage stiffness, though, increased as cartilage samples were dehydrated from a water content of 76% to 8.5%; decreasing again as the water content was further reduced. Loss stiffness was lower on a lower density substrate and decreased as the water content decreased.

Conclusions: In conclusions, a decrease in hydration decreases the loss stiffness, but a non-linear relationship between hydration and storage stiffness may exist. Additionally, higher BMD values led to greater storage and loss stiffnesses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number228
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Early online date8 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
JC is currently funded by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council scholarship (EP/N509590/1). We are also grateful to Arthritis Research UK for the award of a PhD studentship to Anna A. Cederlund (Grant number 19971). The materials and testing equipment used in this study was funded by an Arthritis Research UK grant (H0671). The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Arthritis Research UK (now part of Versus Arthritis) had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Articular cartilage
  • Bone density
  • Hydration
  • Loss
  • Storage
  • Viscoelasticity


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